Birthday boy Brown playing at his best

<P>Offensive guard Ray Brown, the senior statesman on the 49ers roster, celebrated his 39th birthday on Wednesday. </P>

"That's a whole lot of candles to blow," said tackle Derrick Deese, who lines up next to Brown on the left side of San Francisco's offensive line. "It might start a fire."

Brown didn't have to put out any fires Wednesday. But he did have to contend with the buzz of being a birthday boy. "I feel a day older or a year older or whatever, but it's all good," Brown said. "I get to work and practice. At his point, when you're a 39-year-old player, happy and birthday are two pretty good things."

Brown's advancing age - in football terms, at least - belies the fact that he continues to play at a high level and may be playing as well as any offensive guard in the league. The 6-foot-5, 318-pound lineman has played a huge role this season in San Francisco ranking second in the NFL in offense and second in rushing. He also has been strong in the passing game, just as he has been for years. Brown has not allowed a sack in the past three seasons.

 "His play has been so consistent," offensive line coach Pat Morris said. "It's amazing just for his age and that should credit to him some accolades in the late season because he's been so solid. His play hasn't really dipped. He's stayed consistent."

Many observers felt Brown should have made the Pro Bowl last year in what might have been his best season in 16 years in the NFL. With the Niners playing well as a team and the offense again ranked high this year, this could be the season Brown finally is selected. Brown says he's just happy to be doing what he's doing at an age when many professional athletes are working full-time on their golf games.

"Having a birthday as a 39-year old athlete is a pretty good compliment," Brown said. "And I'll take that."

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